What is the meaning of meditation?9 min read

The first thing is, early in the morning, to sit down and to meditate. What is the meaning of meditation? First to create silence, then to fill that silence with light; and that light is the light of affirmation. Then again to make the mind silent so that the text of the affirmation may sink into the mind. This is the meaning of meditation, it is entirely a matter of silence.

If you are hypersensitive you will never be happy anywhere in the world. You will complain in the train, you will complain in the bus, you will complain in the market, you will complain in the shop, and wherever you go you will complain. Why? Because you are hypersensitive. But if you mind your mind and you can create silence within, then you will not suffer from these irritations. First you have to create silence, then the time will surely come when you can create silence on a battlefield.

The Japanese samurai inaugurated the system which is called the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony used to be performed in the thick of battle as an exercise for tranquillizing the mind of the samurai. The greatness of the Japanese in their art, their wonderful literature and poetry, their drama, is due to their habit of meditating every day, their habit of creating silence in daily life. It is only a matter of practice. We should be able to create silence in our mind, and if we are able to create silence in the mind we will not need to go to places which are naturally silent because then we shall be silent wherever we go.

This silence is a prerequisite to prayer. One cannot pray unless there is inner silence. Therefore the first step to prayer is to realise one’s worthlessness. Take any prayer. Take the prayers of the great and holy Saint Augustine. He always began “I am worthless; I am nothing.” Why? One can create inner silence more easily by considering oneself humble. Humility is the badge of spirituality as well as the badge of learning. The man who is always raising his head and saying, “I know, I know, I know!” Tell him, “You know nothing!” Really he knows nothing. He who wants to advertise that he knows is only advertising the nothingness of his knowledge, the paucity of his information, the poverty of his moral wealth.

Then there are two more practices. In horse riding the most important things are when to spur and when to curb. You curb the motion of the horse and you spur the motion of the horse. Now these are the two secrets of controlling the mind; when to spur and make the mind active and when to curb the mind. If you are able to say to the mind, “So far and no further,” then you are a sage. Confucius has said: “The man who can say to his mind, ‘so far and no further,’ that man is on the way to sagehood.”

Often it happens that owing to the associations of our past, which are stored in what is called the unconscious, we become restless and we begin to have ideas which are not productive of peace or happines either for ourselves or for others. Let us remember that that which is not peaceful to everybody is not peaceful to us; that which is not good for everybody is not good for us; this is a general yogic rule and one of the principles of the holy dharma. Then we should say to our mind, “Thus far and no further.” We all like to laugh and laughing is very beneficial, but if you laugh immoderately you will have the censure of other people, you will have their disapprobation.

The Japanese, I found, are great laughing people, but under what restriction they laugh. They will laugh, and in a moment all that laughter is gone and they are most serious. It is said of General Count Nogi that when he was launching an offensive against Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, he stood in a corner with his staff. He lifted one finger and there was silence, complete silence; he lifted two fingers and the orders were, “Shoot!” In the midst of the orders he lifted one finger again and there was complete silence; complete peace and complete silence. If you can do that then surely you are making yourself able to demonstrate peace, and you are able to create peace for yourself as well as being able to curb the mind.

To spur and to curb, these are the two most important things. You will say, “Teach us.” No! Nobody can teach them to you. They depend upon practice. There are things which you only can teach yourself and nobody else can teach you. There are some who will offer to teach you mind control, but they have an eye not on making you peaceful but on what you have in your pocket. Teach yourselves, my friends; practise every day, morning and evening and all the time, when to curb your mind and when to spur your mind. If there is need for goodness, spur your mind; if there is need for restraining the emotions which have come to disturb your mind, you ought to curb it.

One of the ways to curb is to concentrate on the spot between the eyebrows, and then to say, “OM.” Don’t say it aloud if you are with other people; say it silently. It is a magic word; it is a word of no language, and it is the holiest of words, being common to all religions. The Jews have emphasized its importance, and so too has Islam; it is also found in the Buddhist systems. Then imagine OM, here, between the eyebrows. Fix your mind on this spot, as if the sound is issuing from here; then you will find that your mind begins to check. It will not do so immediately, you will have to do the practice a few times. But have indomitable faith; faith in yourself and faith in God.

First faith in yourself. Faith in yourself means, “I am the master of myself. My personality is an army of which I am the supreme commander. I give the word, my imagination will obey me, my will will obey me, all my emotions will obey me.” Have this faith. When you have nothing to do, say: “OM! I am the master of my personality. OM! I am the master of my will.” Remember that the most important part of our personality is neither imagination, nor emotion, nor thought: will, will, will is the most important part. If you have read the Critique of Practical Reason of Immanuel Kant you will find how he emphasizes it. He does not discuss this so much in his Critique of Pure Reason, but in his second Critique he gives the greatest importance to it. Therefore, mind your will and say to yourself: “I am the master of my will. I can create inner tranquillity, peace for myself and peace for others.”

You will say: “Why do you emphasize peace so much? Isn’t it a kind of idleness ? I want to be active, like Hitler!” Remember the fate of Hitler also, if you want to be active like Hitler. I had a few words once, in a reception, with General Wavell. When he talked I found with what great restraint he talked. He was fully master of his personality, and when he went away he left on me a great spirit of peace.

Why ? Because he was a great general, and also, I learnt afterwards, he was an adept in a certain kind of meditation, of which he spoke in India when he was Viceroy there. Therefore peace is necessary, because peace is the fertile ground in which all the virtues grow, and in which we can create beauty; that is the reason why we want peace. If you allow your mind to be ruffled by hate, or by anger, or by inordinate love, then you have shaken the foundation of the fabric of your personality, and you have weakened it. There are some people who have, what is called, ‘a very soft heart’ (like Shelley in his early life). They are unable to create anything, my friends, and hence the word peace, the word shanti. Shanti means creative peace, not the peace which is static, but creative peace.

If you spend an hour in the morning, or half an hour, in meditation, then you are making the best investment of your time and energy. The man who has any common sense, if he wants to invest money, asks his broker, he asks his bank manager, he consults the reports in the Times, he reads the Financial Supplement of the Times and then he says: “Oh yes! These are good securities, I will invest here.” Then why not do the same thing with life, invest your mental energy with care? Mental energy is much more important than money, much more important than any other energy. Therefore learn to invest it, and pray in the evening to God who is within, who is your higher Self.

We have recognised only a fragment of our Self, only one millionth part of it. I repeat, we have recognised the potentiality of ourself only in one millionth part of what it is, and God is the totality of our Self. Rousseau also has said that if God is not the self of man then there is no God in the world, because that God is also God in addition to yourself. Your self knows, your self defines, your self takes cognizance, your self analyses the conception of Godhead; then yourself is greater than God. Somebody has said that God is made by man; if by ‘man’ is meant the real Self of man, then I fully agree.

Therefore, my friends, these are the practices which prepare one for the yogic life. The yogic life is a daily life of peace and creativity when our love is kept within bounds, when our affections are under our control, when our will is universal. There is only one thing in the world which is universal, says Immanuel Kant, and every other thing is relative—it is universal goodwill; goodwill to the poor, to the downtrodden, to the oppressed. Every day is a challenge. Meet this challenge with patience, with good humour, forgiveness, goodwill and without being bored.